Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade called off because of virus

The Mummers’ strut has been stopped in its tracks.

Philadelphia’s famed, and often inflammatory, New Year’s Day parade was canceled by the city on Tuesday — along with every other large event on public property through February 2021 — as officials try to keep a lid on the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mummers Parade had been called off only twice before in its 119-year history, the last time in 1934 during the Great Depression. The parade is a colorful celebration that features string bands, comic brigades, elaborate floats and plenty of feathers and sequins, but it has also attracted persistent criticism over its long history of racist blackface displays and other inappropriate or offensive behavior by some participants. After this year’s parade, Mayor Jim Kenney threatened to end it if parade organizers didn’t clean up their act.

The city’s extended moratorium on large events also applies to festivals, parades, concerts and fairs, including the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Broad Street Run.

“I know this news will be disappointing for many Philadelphians,” Kenney said at a virtual news conference. “It was not an easy decision to make, but as we continue to battle COVID-19 and try to restore some sense of normalcy in our city, we know there will be many difficult decisions to come.”

Kenney stressed the city’s ban does not apply to protests and demonstrations, nor to large-scale events on private property including stadiums and arenas, which must abide by existing pandemic restrictions from the state Health Department.

The Philadelphia health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, said the decision to cancel large, public events until 2021 was tied to when a vaccine might be available.

Farley also referenced the city’s infamous decision to hold a parade at the close of World War I, in the midst of an influenza pandemic. Thousands of people caught the flu and died.

“I think the failure to not cancel that parade way back in 1918 still weighs on the minds of many public health officials,” Farley said.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that it plans to reopen Friday after a four-month shutdown, though with limited hours and no indoor dining. The casino said that masks must be worn at all times — “no exceptions, no pulling down” — and that security will enforce compliance.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Tuesday:



State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, announced Tuesday he has tested positive for the virus.

Williams said in a written statement that he informed Democratic leadership and colleagues as well as people with whom he’s had close contact. Williams’ Senate offices will be closed for two weeks and staff will work remotely. Williams said he will continue to work while isolating.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said senators, staff and reporters who might have been exposed have been contacted, and exposed Senate Democratic staff were sent home.

Williams received his test result Tuesday morning, according to a Senate Democratic spokesperson. He was last on the Senate floor on June 30.

Williams is the second state lawmaker known to have contracted the virus. Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis tested positive in May, self-isolated and recovered. Lewis waited a week before publicly disclosing his diagnosis, angering Democrats.



Pennsylvania recorded more than 900 new coronavirus cases, though health officials said nearly a quarter of those were the result of a delay in lab reporting.

Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, reported 331 new virus infections, but only 145 were from the past 24 hours, according to the state Health Department. County health officials said the remainder were from tests conducted as early as June 8. Health officials said they are working with the lab to determine the reason for the big lag in test results.

Across Pennsylvania, 216 of the new cases resulted from the delay in private lab reporting, according to the state Health Department.

The state also reported 20 new deaths related to COVID-19, raising the statewide toll to 6,931 since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 96,000 people in Pennsylvania have contracted the virus.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.


Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press Writer Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this story.